Identity Theft Prevention - Tips to Protect Yourself

Identity Theft is a fraud committed or attempted using the identifying information (any name or number that may be used alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific person) of another person without authority.

Signs of identity theft:

  • Bills or statements that do not arrive as expected.
  • Unexpected credit cards, bills or account statements.
  • Denials of credit for no apparent reason. (i.e. For credit you did not apply for.)
  • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
  • Charges on your account or credit card statements that you do not recognize.
  • Incorrect information on your credit reports. (Accounts or addresses you do not recognize or information that is inaccurate.)
  • Notice from the IRS.
  • Calls or mail about accounts in a minor child’s name.

Be proactive and protect yourself from Identity Theft with these helpful tips.

Know with whom you are sharing information with:

  • Do not give out personal identifying information over the phone, internet, or through the mail unless you have initiated the contact. 
  • If a company claims to have an account with you in an email and requests more information, type in the company’s name in a search engine, go to the company’s site, and contact them using the informaton on their site. Ask if they actually sent a request to verify that it is legitimate or not.
  • Read the privacy policy. If you do not see or understand a company’s policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Monitor your accounts:

  • Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit report companies.  To order, go to annualcreditreport.com.
  • Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan.
    • Make sure all charges, checks, claims and withdrawals are authorized. If you can, monitor accounts online to catch problems faster.

Ask questions before deciding to share personal information:

  • Before sharing personal information, ask: 
    • Why do you need it?
    • How will it be used?
    • How do you safeguard it?
    • What are the consequences of not sharing? 
  • You can opt out on prescreened offers of credit. Call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com. You can opt out for 5 years or permanently.

Store and dispose of information securely:

  • Lock up financial documents, keep information secure from visitors.
  • Lock up your purse/wallet at work.
  • Shred documents when no longer needed. 
    • E.g. Receipts, credit card offers, financial/insurance statements and checks.
  • Destroy labels on prescription bottles.
  • Limit what you carry. Take only the ID, credit and debit cards you will need.
  • Collect mail daily and avoid leaving outgoing mail in a mailbox overnight or for long periods of time.
  • When leaving your home for several days, have the post office hold your mail.
  • Mail new checks to a secure mailbox.
  • Only keep financial information on your laptop when necessary.
  • Pay attention to billing/statement cycles. If you did not receive one as scheduled, it may have been diverted by an identity thief.

Maintain appropriate security on computers and other electronic devices:

  • Before you throw out computers, wipe off all your personal information. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
  • When throwing out a mobile device, see the manufacturer’s website or owner’s manual for instructions on how to delete personal information permanently. 
  • Encrypt data on your internet browser. Make sure there is a “lock” symbol next to the address before entering in personal information. 
  • Do not write down passwords. Instead, come up with a phrase that will help you remember it and also make it stronger. Substitute numbers or symbols for words or letters. E.g. “I love my little dog Sammy” could be 1LmlDSe.
  • Don’t post too much information on social networking sites.
    • Never post your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, phone number or account numbers in a publically accessible website.
  • Use security software.
    • Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall on your computer. Update the software often.
  • Avoid opening emails from strangers, do not click on the links, download or open files. 
  • Use a secure wireless network; put a password on your Wi-Fi.
  • When using public Wi-Fi, use encrypted websites for sending information. 
  • Put a log-in password on your computers.
  • Do not use a username and password auto-fill feature and log-off when finished.

Identity Theft Resources: